The CAT4 Cognitive Abilities Test
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The Cognitive Abilities Test (or CAT4) is taken by students across the UK and Ireland between the ages of 6 and 17+.
Whilst not all schools use this test, over 50% of UK secondary schools do.
The test is designed to work out how each student best learns and thinks, allowing teachers and staff to support them better.
The CAT4 is similar to an IQ test for adults and gives a baseline for the potential and strengths of each student whilst highlighting any weaknesses they might have.
With this information, teachers can structure their lessons to suit different learning types.
For example, some students absorb information better via pictures, video and infographics, whereas others may prefer words and audio.
This article will give parents a better understanding of the CAT4, what areas will be tested and what the results will show.
What Is the CAT4?
The CAT4 has been developed by GL Assessment, with this fourth edition being five years in the making, using over 25,000 students’ data.
The test is used for a few different purposes:
- The CAT4 gives a snapshot of a child’s potential, more so than traditional, curriculum-based tests.
- It helps teachers to see which students will need assistance and support, as well as those who need to be pushed and challenged to reach their fullest potential.
- Teachers can group students who have similar learning skills and traits together.
- It identifies learning preferences.
Whilst it tends to be sat by secondary school pupils, the test can be taken as young as six and up to the age of 17 and above.
With various ages sitting the test, there are seven levels of difficulty:
- Year 2: Level X (6–7 years)
- Year 3: Level Y (7–8)
- Year 4: Level A (8–9)
- Year 5: Level B (9–10)
- Year 6: Level C (10–11)
- Year 7: Level D (11–12)
- Year 8: Level E (12–13)
- Years 9 + 10: Level F (13–15)
- Years 11+: Level G (15–17+)
CAT4 levels X to C can be good indicators of progress and pace of learning at a younger age.
This will highlight any strengths and weaknesses early on.
Many pupils also sit this in Key Stage 3, often as part of an entrance exam to some schools or as part of the move to secondary school.
This can provide them with support in the transition between primary and secondary education.
When taken by the older year groups, the CAT4 can be a guide to the subjects a child should study for GCSEs, A-Levels and at university, as well as future career paths.
What Is Being Assessed?
The CAT4 tests four areas (or batteries):
- Verbal – Expressing ideas through words. This is useful for language-heavy subjects, such as English and History, and will highlight those children who have a natural way with words.
- Non-verbal – Problem-solving using visuals. It is needed for a range of subjects, such as maths and sciences where diagrams and infographics are commonly used.
- Quantitative – Using numbers to solve problems and looking at sequences and the relationships between them. This is not just for maths-based subjects, though, as analytics can be used across research-based subjects like business studies too.
- Spatial reasoning – This is the idea of working out how a child thinks and comes to conclusions. Again, this is useful for STEM subjects involving data but also subjects where reflections are included, such as any involving research projects.
The CAT4 aims to cover all subject areas, with many overlapping into multiple batteries.
Question Formats and Type
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect on each test and what skills are required:
- Figure Classification – In this section, students must work out how three shapes are connected and choose which shape also connects.
Example Question 1
Identify the next shape in the sequence:
- Figure Matrices – This set of questions look at pattern recognition. Again, the student will have to look for a pattern in a set of shapes and figure out which answer fits best with the shapes given.
Example Question 2
Which answer option completes the pattern?
- Verbal Classification – This part of the test shows a set of three words that all have a connection. Students must work out how they are similar and select an answer that continues the pattern.
Example Question 3
Which word completes the pattern?
red, yellow, pink...
- Verbal Analogies – In this section, a pair of words are given as an example. These words are connected somehow, and candidates need to figure out how they are linked. They then need to apply the connection to the third word to find the answer.
Example Question 4
apple – green, strawberry –
- Number Analogies – This section is the same as Verbal Analogies above but with numbers instead. The student must spot the rule between a pair of numbers and apply the same rule to the third number to get the answer. There will be a mixture of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division used.
Example Question 5
3 – 5, 5 – ?
- Number Series – A series of numbers are given and students must work out why they are in that order and use the same rule to find the final number from the answers given.
Example Question 6
1, 2, 4, 7, 11, ?
- Figure Analysis – This section focuses on how candidates think about shapes and symmetry. They are shown a diagram and must work out what it would look like flat and unfolded to pick out the answer.
Example Question 7
A piece of A4 paper is folded in half and a hole is punched in it. What will the paper look like when unfolded?
- Figure Recognition – The final section is also about shapes but looks at how they are hidden. Each question has a given shape, which is hidden in one of the answers.
Example Question 8
Find the hidden shape in the answer options below:
The correct answers are:
What to Expect When Taking the CAT4
As seen above, the CAT4 is broken into three parts. Each part consists of multiple-choice questions and must be completed in 45 minutes; in total, two hours and 15 minutes.
Students are required to complete all questions in this time; however, some students, such as those with SEN, may be given extra time to finish.
The test can be sat both online and on paper, with many schools now preferring students to sit the online version.
Regardless of the format, the tests have the same scoring and results reports sent out.
How the Test Is Scored
Each student will receive a raw score out of 130; this is the number of questions they have answered correctly.
These figures are then calculated into three different normative scores to give an overall picture.
These three normative scores are:
- National Percentile Rank (NPR) – This is the percentage of students overall who scored higher or lower than the candidate. For example, if the student received an NPR of 65%, it means that they scored the same or better than 65% of all students in their age group. It also means that 35% of students scored higher than them.
- Standard Age Scores (SAS) – The standard for each age group is an average of 100 with a standard deviation of 2. If pupils from different age groups achieve the same SAS, they’ve done equally well compared to others in their age group. Also, if a student achieves the same score on two different batteries, they have done better compared to others of a similar age.
- Stanines (ST) – This scale is split into nine different levels and is based on both the scores above. It shows teachers the level of performance of each student and where they sit on the scale.
The Stanine Scale
|Stanine||Percentage of Cases||Corresponding of Percentiles||Corresponding SAS|
|Very High||9||4%||97 or higher||127 or higher|
|Very Low||1||4%||4 or under||73 or under|
Advice for Parents
The CAT4 is not a knowledge-based test; it requires logic and reasoning.
The test-makers advise against taking practice tests as practice beforehand could result in inaccurate results.
The questions test how each student’s brain responds to different areas, such as words, numbers and shapes.
Some of the questions will be recognisable to the child as they will be similar to those they have seen in previous academic exams. However, some cover multiple subjects and wouldn’t fit into a curriculum-based exam.
By practising these types of questions, the child will be more aware of how to answer and may score highly in a section that they would normally struggle with, such as number patterns and sequences.
Ultimately, the best advice for parents is to encourage your child to relax.
This is not like a regular exam; it is not designed to test their knowledge on any subject. The idea is to get an overview of which areas of learning they excel in and which areas they need a helping hand with.
Each student will get a comprehensive report sent back to the school and you should be offered the opportunity to discuss them with a teacher. Many schools will enlist the help of parents to pick a suitable learning schedule for the student.
Compared to other tests your child will sit in their academic career, the CAT4 is the least intimidating.
Whilst they might not know what to expect from the test itself, the fact that there is no revision required could relieve some of that pressure.
A child may show promise in a certain area of the test, which can be used to help them develop their learning skills.
There may also be an area that they are struggling with or do not feel as confident in. Teachers will then be able to use this knowledge to guide their learning.
The CAT4 is a tool for students, teachers and parents alike to see where the child is currently at and where they can be. Learning can be tailored towards these results and all three parties involved can work together to ensure the child feels as supported and challenged as they need to be.